The busy holiday travel season has arrived, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
The TSA said they are prepared for sustained higher passenger volume during the holiday season and expect airport security checkpoints to be busier this year than last year.
The official year-end holiday travel period begins on Thursday, December 21st and will run through Tuesday, January 2nd. The busiest days are expected to be Thursday, December 21, Friday, December 29 and Monday, January. 1, when the agency will screen more than 2.5 million passengers each day — a 6 percent increase from 2022.
The busiest day last year was Dec. 29, when TSA screened nearly 2.4 million passengers.
The TSA screened nearly 30 million passengers during the 12-day Thanksgiving holiday period last month and broke the record for the most passengers in a single day on Nov. 26, screening more than 2.9 million passengers at security checkpoints In the whole country.
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“We are prepared to handle the busy volume of travelers this winter holiday season,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “TSA’s continued success during this record-breaking travel year is a direct result of the teamwork, planning and professional execution throughout the agency, from our front-line employees to those behind the scenes; airport and airline partnerships and innovative checkpoint technologies that improve security efficiency, efficiency and the passenger experience.”
TSA officials offered helpful tips for those traveling this season:
- Pack smart: To see if an item is prohibited, check the TSA website under “What can I bring?” or simply ask by texting @AskTSA. If you can spill, spray, spray, pump, or pour it, then it is subject to the 3.4-ounce liquid rule limit. As always, passengers may carry solid foods such as pastries and other baked goods through the TSA checkpoint subject to inspection.
- Arrive early: Arrive two hours before your scheduled flight to allow plenty of time to park, return a rental car, or arrive by public transportation or carpool, check in baggage with the airline, and go through security before arriving at the gate.
- Carry an acceptable form of identification and present it at the screening lane: Before proceeding to the airport, passengers must ensure that they have an acceptable form of identification. Beginning May 7, 2025, every air passenger 18 and older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or other acceptable form of identification to fly within the United States. REAL ID compliant cards are marked with a star at the top of the card.
- Make sure gifts are unwrapped and can be checked: TSA encourages those traveling with gifts this holiday season to use gift bags that can be opened easily or gift boxes with lids that can be opened download so that the contents can be checked if necessary. Fully wrapped gifts may need to be opened if deemed necessary by a TSA officer. Another option is to place unwrapped gifts in checked baggage.
- Passengers may travel with firearms: Firearms must be unloaded and properly packed in a locked, hard-sided case and must be placed in checked baggage. At the plane’s ticket counter, passengers must declare their weapons to the airline. Firearms are prohibited in carry-on baggage and at security checkpoints and on board aircraft. The maximum civil penalty for bringing a firearm into a TSA checkpoint is nearly $15,000. For more information on properly traveling with a firearm, visit tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/firearms.
- Travel with ease with TSA PreCheck: TSA’s Trusted Traveler program now has more than 90 participating airlines, is available at more than 200 airports, and has two authorized enrollment providers. Enrollees benefit from faster checkpoint screening. A five-year membership costs just $78. For more information on becoming a member of the TSA PreCheck program, visit tsa.gov/precheck.
- Call ahead to request passenger support: Travelers or families of travelers with disabilities and/or medical conditions may call the TSA Cares Helpline toll-free at 855-787-2227 at least 72 hours before travel any questions about the screening procedures and understand what to expect at the security checkpoint. TSA Cares also arranges security checkpoint assistance for passengers with special needs.
- Text or direct message TSA for help: Travelers can get real-time help by texting their question to 275-872 (“AskTSA”) or via @AskTSA on X or Facebook Messenger. An automated virtual assistant is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, while staff are available every day from 8am to 6pm ET, including holidays and weekends. Travelers may also contact the TSA Contact Center at 866-289-9673. Staff are available from 8am to 11pm on weekdays and from 9am to 8pm on weekends/holidays; and automated service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Follow TSO directions: Some people may not have traveled recently, so it is important to listen to the directions provided by the transportation security officers at the checkpoint. Airport and airline staff can also provide guidance to help during the travel process.